VW’s Voltswagen Pre-April Fools’ Rebranding Just Got Grounded
Volkswagen’s U. S. subsidiary just couldn’t resist
In what was perhaps the worst attempt at an April Fools’ joke, Volkswagen issued a press release a day ago (that has since been taken down) declaring the name change of its American division to “Voltswagen.” It was a marketing stunt intended to draw consumers to the solitary EV vehicle in the automaker’s exhaustive lineup of commercial automobiles. And while Volkswagen did get the media’s attention, most of it wasn’t positive.
Sources familiar with the matter informed Reuters of an announcement on Wednesday stating that Voltswagen was, in fact, a corporate prank. This isn’t the first time a brand has renamed itself (IHOP’s notorious IHOb burger campaign comes to mind).
But this is perhaps the first time that a prank has been done off-season, albeit by a few days. With projections of over 26 million electric vehicles (EVs) on the roads by 2030, it’s no surprise why Volkswagen decided to try the shock marketing approach (I’m sorry).
“This name change signifies a nod to our past as the peoples’ car and our firm belief that our future is in being the peoples’ electric car.”— Scott Keogh, CEO of Volkswagen America (press release no longer available)
In an email to The Washington Post, Volkswagen spokesman Mark Gillies noted that “There will be no renaming of Volkswagen of America.” The alleged renaming attempted to pitch the all-electric ID.4 SUV to EV enthusiasts but ended up hurting the German automobile giant’s public image.
The resulting social media attention has been polarising, to say the least. And while it has got us talking, Volkswagen’s risk hasn’t really paid off. There are better ways of establishing a commitment to EVs, like General Motors’ promise to sell only zero-emission vehicles by 2035. Don’t get me started on their plug-esque app icon rebranding though.
I wonder why Volkswagen couldn’t wait for a day or two. The move would have been seen in a far more forgiving light on April Fools’ Day.
The prank followed by VW’s immediate pivot serves as a cautionary tale for organizations’ cheeky marketing strategies. While outrage over rebrands is nothing new in 2021, confusing customers before pulling a 180 shows us that we all learn something new every day. As a German auto powerhouse with a heritage of several decades in the industry, critics and fans alike aren’t going to let “the peoples’ car” get away with it.